Category Archives: ADLT 641 Exploration of Digital Media for Adult Learning

Two Years in 12 Minutes

So here it is!  My final reflection on the Adult Learning program/adventures at VCU for the last two and a half years, and my final project for ADLT 641 this semester.  I welcome any comments and thoughts you may have, as I’m certain this could be improved upon.  But I feel very successful in its creation, as well as where I find myself as I submit it to all of you as well as Dr. Hurst as my advisor.

Good luck in your continued learning adventures you all, and please do not neglect to reach out as you continue in your journey.  For as we’ve discovered this semester we are all a part of each others PLNs, and let the learning continue!


Visualizing My Own PLN

One of my new favorite vocabulary words as a result of this class is centered around the idea of living and learning through a connected environment.  Have you ever been tasked with a project that you had no clue how to start, challenged by an idea that should be possible but you’re not sure how, or, perhaps even more simply, have you ever started to Google something and ended up down a multitude of rabbit holes?  Then perhaps it is time for you to get connected.

Connectivism, as cited by the always helpful Wikipedia, presents us with a theory resting in beliefs such as:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.  
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Maintaining and nurturing connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Perceiving connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

PLNs, Personal (or Professional) Learning Networks, can provide the opportunity to stay connected in such a way that Connectivism becomes a living theory….

So as I near the end of my Masters studies and think of my personal and professional interests and goals, I decided that the term ‘Connected Educator‘ should lead me in the creation of such a network.  But oh my…where on earth to start??

So I went back through every topic and tool we’ve discussed in class, others I’ve utilized over time and still others blogged about by classmates and out in the great beyond (a.k.a the internet via keyword ‘PLN’).  And so here it is, My PLN, in its beginning glory.  It will need to be expanded, updated, maintained and utilized in order to be found worthwhile.  But it is a roadmap of my own personal Connectivism and one that I know will be useful in the future near and far.

Still a little unsure on how to start your own??  Check out this one last video…have I mentioned how much I love You Tube? 🙂

Webcasts and Worries…Can’t You Just Click and Go?

I remember the conversation that began it all well……”they are willing to let us trial it for the east coast for free” I said to my Director at the time.  Her hesitation with digital technology and the demand for online courses was understandable, but in the world we were in I knew that it was time for us to move forward into the webcast domain-and this was our chance!  Our corporate office had purchased a few licenses to trial the creation of webcast courses in a few area facilities, and due to recent requests that I had made, we had been chosen to trial it for the entire east coast!  I was ecstatic!  “I’m not sure that many will even want to participate” she sighed, “and what about the audience and their potential technical abilities/difficulties.  Will you be able to help them when they can’t make it work?”

At the end of my tenure with my previous company, I had conducted multiple webcasts on multiple topics.  Each time with a broad audience of students that ranged in work roles anywhere from leadership to nursing staff.  The demand was certainly there, but it was not without its difficulties and I certainly walked away with multiple tips…

  • To my Director’s point, you do need to know your technology.  Students will need help and will have trouble connecting, no matter how many emails or step-by-step instructions you send prior to.
  •  As mentioned in the article, 9 Lessons I Learned from Running My First Webinar, you need to be wary of your PP presentation.  Do NOT use paragraphs or hard to read text.  It will look even worse on a Webcast and you aren’t in front of it making it seem less overwhelming by talking.  Put what you feel like they should take note of on the slides and make notes in the speaker’s notes for you.  Don’t be afraid to use more slides than you normally do!
  • Get creative and remember to engage your audience.  When you stand in front of a classroom, you can read facial expressions, hop up and down, wave your arms, ask questions, etc.  But when it’s you, a screen and voices over a phone or computer, your opportunities can be a bit more limited.  Familiarize yourself with the tools you have available and, if all else fails, don’t mute your phone.  Ask questions, use your chat, throw up a few smiley faces and ask for green checks.  Poll your audience.  Engage them or loose them.
  • Ask people to log in ahead of time.  This will definitely help with any technology issues that you may encounter before hand, and will eliminate your need to cut down on content to stay on track for your target ending time.  Plus, you can work with people individually more prior to the session on these types of issues-eliminating the time others have to sit through the necessary back-and-forth as you try and figure it out.
  • Take time for yourself to practice and set up.  I had to take time in the beginning prior to every session; the day before just to do a quick run through, and then an hour before to not only set up (I couldn’t set up the day before, it could only be about an hour before you started the session) but to also try for any troubleshooting that I may need to do.

There are a multitude of articles and resources out there that can help you identify ways to be as prepared as possible prior to conducting your own session online.  The ones bulleted above were my biggest and best based on my own experiences, but boy this post could certainly go on for days!  The best advice I could give if asked however would be to try it out for yourself.  It is yet another way to reach so many with educational opportunities, and one that is growing in popularity with a multitude of ways/programs to make it happen.   So embrace it, make note of things that may happen, and start small.  The world will be your oyster before you know it 🙂

Reaching More

Before locating the requested article this week, I turned to the YouTube video that we were to view entitled, An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube and found myself…intrigued.  I had no idea that YouTube had launched in April of 2005, causing me to not only marvel at how such great advancements can take a while to be discovered, in all of their possibilities, by the ‘outside’, but to also appreciate how it has since developed into what it is.  It can take a while for society to embrace change, and especially a change that can make things so much easier to reach others in a variety of ways.  The self-expressive form that YouTube has become is inspiring and enlightening, to say the least.  This “new form of empowerment” as noted in the video, has created an opportunity to link people together, allowing all people from all across the globe to have the ability to share, trade, and collaborate with one another.  So why is such a tool that can create such empowerment not traditionally used in a classroom setting?  Video can add a new voice, a light, a chance to go back as we move forward.  But then, when is this appropriate?  Could such a capability really be useful in every classroom?

Enter my article for this week entitled, Moving Worked Problems to YouTube, by Warren Christensen.  In this article, Christensen discusses the use of class time, especially that of what is typically deemed inevitable.  Concepts and content is a necessity when helping students to understand a topic, and yet the learning can often be so much more when the concepts are then applied to an activity/discussion.  But for the lack of time, which do you think is typically sacrificed?  Christensen helps us to understand that not only can web-based videos aid us in making the most of our class time, but that it can actually be so much easier than many want to make it out to be.  Technology has become a medium that can not only make our classes that much more, but they can help us to ensure that we are engaging our students to “improve conceptual understanding and their problem-solving abilities.”  (pg. 501)

So perhaps for me, I have been left with the understanding that this is a world that can be useful in its non-constraint.  Video can reach so many, offering the possibility of a new world, and perhaps a new way of life (or at least learning about it:)

To view the article mentioned in this post, click here….

To see an example of teaching through technology, and/or how to use Twitter as an educational tool (a personal interest of mine to further explore), click here….

An Example of Screencasting in a Live Class Setting

As I shifted through the article choices returned after a filtered search through our library site, I was surprised to see that even some of the most recent articles were already somewhat out of date.  One such article for example, Screencasting for an Audience of One by M. Jacobsen, referenced tools such as Screenjelly-an application that has since become obsolete.  So, with acknowledgment to the ever-changing world of technology, I decided to try to find something that would show what using a screencast could look like as opposed to a list of possible application tools.

Enter yet one more article, but this time one focusing on the use of screencasts in a social studies classroom;  Cast from the Past: Using Screencasting in the Social Studies Classroom, written by researchers Catherine Snydera, Lawrence M. Paskabc & David Besozzid.  The action research study follows a social studies educator as he uses screencasts in three ninth-grade World History classrooms.  His goal was to increase student-centered learning while meeting the needs of as many learners as possible.  What he found however, was an increase in student engagement, instruction in career and college technological skills, and facilitation of special education students’ needs. A feat that many find difficult, at best, due to the high demand placed on childhood education classrooms indicated by standardized testing requirements.  But, the research did also note the identification of a few drawbacks as well….

The tool was used to present various information and students’ were then able to take notes at their own pace.  They could pause, rewind, re-review later-it was like having the professor/teacher in their pocket when they needed him. Class time would be used to ask and discuss any questions as well as spend time on learning activities devoted to the topic.  Many noted their appreciation for more activity in class, some realizing the greater learning that took place, and others just noting that it was more “fun”.  A few still mentioned that they were not as excited about the extra homework they had as a result of the screencast integration, others even mentioned that they could have trouble accessing it while a few noted that they thought the screencasts were boring/non-interactive.  But then, one has to wonder, what would their academic results have looked like in a traditional style classroom vs. this method?  Do they simply learn better when in a traditional style classroom?  OR, is this just new and different and the realization of how much more they ended up taking away from the class not really hit them yet?  Hmmm….perhaps a point for further study….

I am inspired by what I found in this study and, while the example is in a high school vs. a higher learning environment, I would be remiss not to note that many childhood education programs are identifying ways to focus teaching on the student and their learning, vs. a the traditional behavioral methodology.  So in this action learning (adult learning), flipped classroom/student-centered (adult learning), integrated classroom example I challenge anyone not to look at the methodologies and the insight that was used in this study and tell me how they can’t fit it to their own educational world.  Give it a shot and be inspired by what technology might do for your classroom-as long as it is up-to-date 🙂

Hmmm….what have we learned as I give Screencasting a shot!

Pedagogy in a New Light

I remember the first time I heard the term pedagogy.  I was in my first semester of study for my Masters, living in a whirlwind of new words and theories encompassed by the label Adlt 601.  Pedagogy was, for me, a word to finally articulate what it meant when I saw someone teach and watched as someone learned.  There is, in fact, a difference I think. I invite criticism as I propel forward with these thoughts…but I feel as though I may be thinking somewhat in parallel to Sean Michael Morris in his post regarding Digital Pedagogy.  Helping someone to understand, to grasp, to learn something so that they can continue to build on that basis of knowledge, even after they leave you and the classroom far behind, is truly an art.   For it is sometimes the variety of ways, the collaboration of their own experiences along with others around them (including the one at the ‘front’ of the classroom) that paints the new lens that they leave with.   And each time it’s different, each individual is different, each andragogical opportunity (in our world of adult learning:) is different.  So why not tap into that?  For it is also the methods chosen that can make the experiences, for all involved, powerful or simply palatable.  So why then, do we not look more often to the WWW?

As Morris continues in his post, the world of the LMS began (and still in some ways remains) in a ‘teaching’ world.  The purpose, at least from my perspective when thinking of the business world and its need for an LMS for employees, is to more or less present the material and then check the box ‘complete’.  It is seldom that true awareness has been created, or that real learning has occurred.  This, in a sense, is my separation of teaching and learning.

But it is the pairing of words, digital and pedagogy, that has sent my mind headed in another direction in thinking about methods that we use for our learners.  The endless possibilities that we have to collaborate, reflect, construct, and connect.  In a class of many we can learn from the instructor as well as one another…and perhaps even from our own selves.  We can utilize tools that allow this to happen in class, outside of class and perhaps even beyond class.  Perhaps the reason behind the idea of a hybrid style of learning?  A self-run PowerPoint with voice over isn’t enough to provide a building of schema, we must provide the learner with opportunities to take those bullets on the slide and do something.  Have them think about it, apply it, discuss it, align it with their own ideas and experiences and decide what it means to them.  Don’t just ask them to listen to your ramblings, especially if they are ‘listening’ as they continue to work on something else or, better yet, with the sound off until it’s over.  Give them tools, perhaps digital tools or some sort of combination, and start a discussion(s) that helps them learn it.

“Digital pedagogy demands that we rethink power relations between students and teachers — demands we create more collaborative and less hierarchical institutions for learning” (Jesse Stommel, Decoding Digital Pedagogy)

So go on.  Build yourself a PLN.  Go explore the web and all of its free resources.  Then, go teach something.  Or better yet, help someone collaboratively learn something new that creates an awareness that leaves them motivated to know more.

Connectivism, a Professional Toolkit, and a Side of Self-Awareness

As a result of our challenge this week, to find a relevant article with a fairly new date, I stumbled upon the most fascinating read regarding connectivism and what it could look like when applied to a curriculum (and it was dated 2014!).

I was hooked as soon as I saw the statement, “connectivism addressess many of the challenges identified in organizational learning and knowledge management as well as specifically focusing on the role of technology in learning.” (p. 81)  For this was an idea that brought me back to where we are in our discussions in Adult 641 and yet really caused some further reflection as to how it may tie into what I’ve learned over the past few years.  The idea of using technology to “facilitate networking, knowledge sharing, critical consumption of information, and continuous learning.” (p. 81) is one that is becoming more and more prevalent in the realm of adult learning in general.  Technology, after all, is noted by Siemens (2005) as what is beginning to define and shape our thinking.   An idea that we have discussed over the past few months in class.  But perhaps it was the statement found a few pages later, on pg. 83, that truly brought me back to how effective the two can be when paired together.  “Learners’ content, networks, and tools can be used to create Personal Learning Environments (PLE), which allow learners to control and manage their learning and set their own goals, to manage content and what is done with content, and to communicate with others as part of their learning.” (p.83)

The article went on in its justification by describing an undergraduate degree that has been created at an Australian based university.  The program uses connectivist principles to tie together courses in the realm of HR and OD, while utilizing technology and its various uses to increase the learning of the individuals that participate. There is a professional toolkit that they are provided with in the beginning, inclusive of a variety of different web-based tools and instructions on each one.  The goal is to encourage the students to then use the tools, discovering what works best for them to assist in building their own PLNs.  “The use of e-learning tools within the degree has also been informed by current practice in the field, whereby organizational learning practitioners should be using Web 2.0 applications such as social bookmarks, news feeds, podcasts, blogs, wikis, and discussion forums as well as social and professional networking publications such as LinkedIn or Plaxo as part of their personal learning network.” (p. 85)

All in all, this article made me realize that I really wish I had taken this class a bit earlier on in my studies.  In reflection, our professors have been forward thinking enough to also incorporate the resources touted in this article that should be part of a connectivist style of learning:

  • Online publishing tools (e.g. wikis and blogs)
  • Resource sharing tools (e.g. Google drive)
  • Communication tools (e.g. Google Hangout)
  • Tools for organizing information (e.g. Concept Mapping, Prezi)

But I’m also left to wonder what else may be out there that is still waiting to be discovered.  What tools, had I have known about them before, could have increased my own learning during my time at VCU?  And yet, while my introduction to the ideas and possibilities that the web can bring to learning was not a formal one, I would be remiss not to say that I am pleased to find that I have come across each one with thanks to my professors and classmates during my studies.  While the theory of connectivism may not be a fully accepted theory when discussing adult learning principles, I have become a believer and appreciate what it has added to my own learning journey.  So here’s to the WWW and I’m off now to work on my own PLN.

***Interested in reading the full article?  Check it out: